Dining out isn’t just for special occasions anymore—it can be a way to catch up with friends, or an inexpensive shortcut for a busy family. With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulating calorie labeling, it’s getting easier to spot healthy menu items but may not be as easy or appealing to choose them. You CAN eat out and stay on track with these helpful tips:
1. Plan ahead! Look at the menu online before you leave for the restaurant. If you track your calories, know what you can eat that won’t derail your day. Schedule exercise on or near days you plan to eat out to help offset any extra calories you may eat. Don’t beat yourself up on special occasions, focus on balance and creating healthier habits and one or two slips won’t put a big dent in your wellness journey.
2. Killer Apps. The start of your meal can determine how healthy it’s going to end up. If you’re with close friends and family, ask for support and see if anyone would mind passing on the basket of bread or ordering a salad to share instead of a bready appetizer. If that’s not possible, take one piece of bread and order a veggie friendly starter so you aren’t feeling left out and more likely to order a healthy entree.
3. Hold the ___. Unless the restaurant specifies otherwise, don’t feel bad about requesting healthier substitutions. For example, having your protein grilled instead of fried/sautéed; asking for dressing on the side, or a steamed veggie instead of fries.
4. Beware of the Giant Plate. Some restaurant portions can be well above a single serving—keep your portions under control by making your meal out of healthier appetizers and side dishes. If you have a favorite dish, try portioning out one serving when it arrives and get the rest boxed up immediately, so you have some leftovers for the next day!
5. Toppings. A burger is innocent! It’s all the bacon, cheese and mayonnaise that tend to make it indulgent. A taco doesn’t mean any harm! It’s the cheese and sour cream that make it unbalanced. Beware of extra toppings that are looking to sabotage your seemingly healthy choices:
6. Drink up! Try to drink one or two glasses of water before your meal arrives. You’ll have a better sense of how hungry you are, and will be less likely to overeat. If you’re celebrating and want a drink, steer clear of fruit juices and sodas. By staying hydrated, you can have a better sense of your limits, and reduce the chances of overdoing it.
Don’t forget to eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your body to feel full. Bon Appetit!